By Allison Banta
It’s the first week of school here. At bedtime last night, we read “On the Day you Begin”, as we do every year. It’s a story of a kid and a school and new spaces, and what it feels like to be different.
We read it every year because I like to remind my girls that even if it isn’t them this time, it has been. Someone always feels different, or new, or like there isn’t a space for them. It’s important to remember what it feels like to begin something new.
We like to talk about our welcoming power; the power we have to be noticers – people who see someone needing welcome. People who make space. Who see and celebrate differences. People who understand that there is always room for another story, a new angle, a new friend.
We read the story and we talked about how to be those people in a sea of masked faces, where reading emotions is harder. Masks keep us safe from germs, but they also hide our faces. The very thing that keeps us all safe right now might also mean that someone feels unseen. I asked them – what kind of body language says a person is lonely? What might someone act like, if they feel like they don’t fit? How do we read emotions when most of our faces are hidden? What can we do to help?
While we were chatting, the eight-year-old said:
“Oh I know! We can look at their eyes! Lonely eyes don’t crinkle on the sides. Or sparkle. I’ll just see their eyes, and then I’ll ask if they want to play dragons or tell me anything they like. And then we’ll be friends.”
My favorite line in “On the Day You Begin” says, “and all at once, in the room where no one else is quite like you, the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you. This is the day you begin….”
This is my hope for everyone facing a little bit (or a lot) of new as we head back into our schools in person; May the world open itself up a little wider to make some space for you. And if we are the veterans of our spaces, may we be the ones who widen the world for someone else, just a bit. It doesn’t have to be complicated, even with our masks. Just look for the eye crinkles, make some space, and be a welcoming friend.